Walk through the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem and you’re walking through thousands of years of history. Most of the Quarter was leveled and destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948 when they started their 19-year rule over the Old City of Jerusalem. At that time the Jewish defenders of the Quarter were taken prisoner and sent to Jordan while the Jewish residents were expelled into Jewish/Israeli held territory. The Zion Gate of the Old City was sealed up and no Jew could enter the Old City or visit the Western Wall of the Second Temple.
All this changed in 1967 when Israel won the Six Day War. In order to rebuild the Jewish Quarter, the area had to be cleared of rubble and sites had to be excavated before new buildings were put up. And what was found is amazing!
In the year 70 CE Jerusalem was utterly destroyed by the Roman army when the Jews revolted against Roman rule. The city, as well as the Temple, were burnt to the ground. Excavations since the return to Israeli rule has turned up many exciting finds from both before and after the Roman destruction. Today you can see the remains of a wealthy Jewish neighborhood underneath the Jewish Quarter as well as the Burnt House, the house of Katros the Priest, where you can watch an audio/visual recreation of the events in the year 70.
Take a walk through the Roman Cardo – the main shopping street during Roman and Byzantine times. Just above are the Hurva Synagogue which stands above the Medieval Ramban Synagogue. Find out about their destructions and why the Hurva was rebuilt a number of times (the most recent in 2010). What’s the story of the mosque next to the building?
You can see the Four Sephardi Synagogues complex and hear the fascinating stories about them. And there’s the amazing Western Wall Tunnels, the Davidson Archeological Park on the Southern Wall of the Temple as well as great views from a number of vantage points including the roofs of some of the buildings. Visit the Broad Wall and the First Temple Institute. And there are even more to see and stories to hear which I haven’t mentioned.
Oh, and don’t forget to put a note with a prayer in between the cracks in the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site.